March 2008 - Posts

Mexican coke... more over-hyped nonsense...

I had heard the hype about the legendary Mexican coke that has sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). I honestly believed that this was "the real thing" and I would just die from the flavour and taste like most other people who have tried it. I even heard that if you are in the right place at the right time in a large US city you can get specially formulated passover coke.

I must admit to being a little skeptical about the claims - most of the hype behind this sort of thing ends up being rather exaggerated with rabid fans of whatever is supposed to be better raving about it so that everyone else ends up wanting to rave too so they are part of the cool kids club. So when i saw that they were selling the mexican stuff in Costco I knew I had to buy some... even if it did cost over twice as much as the evil US variant.

So I chilled my bottle and drank my first sip of the nectar... hmmm it tastes like coke... let me remember what the blogs said it SHOULD taste like. sweeter that's right... well maybe I can taste that. J tried hers... she doesn't seem convinced either. So what does a computer programmer and a scientist do in such a case... a doubly blinded taste test.

Now there's a dilemma - how can 2 people perform a double blind test on themselves. It took a little debate but eventually we came up with a protocol. I write A and B on paper cups and pour Mexican in one and USA in the other and record which is which while J is out of the room. Then I leave and J writes 1 and 2 on paper cups and randomly pours the coke from A and B into those cups and records which is which. She has no clue what was in A&B and I have no clue what is in 1&2 so we are fully double blind. And we taste.

At first I cannot taste any difference and I have to drink a lot and really think hard to find one that is sweeter. Now its J's turn. She also can't taste much difference but eventually chooses. I chose A as mexican - she chose B - and I was right (praise be to the Flying Spaghetti monster). Even though I Iove to be right this isn't enough samples (we have 21 more bottles) but the one thing we agree on is that the difference between them side by side is negligible. We may also have to add some palette cleansing into the protocol to ensure we get a fair taste - what kind of cheese goes with coke anyway?

Of course this turned into a 'debate' over which should be sweeter - the sugar or the HFCS? Well before J strangled me for being argumentative we put a hold on the discussion for another day (which I promise to blog even if she is right!).

Now its not to say there isn't a good reason to switch the mexican coke - HFCS has a pretty bad reputation nutrition wise and mexican coke does come in those nice glass bottles which always make my coke taste nicer (in my head). But just to provide a balanced view in the world of blog hype... my personal opinion is that most people can't tell unless you let them know how much better it is supposed to be.

A whole new business plan

Writing code for a living is a lot of hard work so I'm very pleased to share with the world a way to make a lot of money while just pissing off a few people.

  1. Create an ebay account
  2. Sell enough stuff legitimitely to get solid positive feedback and power seller status, preferably over several years
  3. Now you are invincible - people will trust you so....
  4. Start selling magazines on ebay
  5. Make sure to add the words "magazine subscriptions take up to 90 days please contact me before leaving bad feedback or taking a dispute"
  6. Sell a few months of magazines taking you up to the month of November
  7. Now its December the holiday season - your years of planning come to fruition - sell more magazines than ever before but don't actually order anything from the publishers
  8. January - nobody has noticed yet because its less than 90 days and people trust you. Keep selling more magazines.
  9. Empty your paypal account to prevent refunds
  10. Stop putting up new auctions, get a new email address and shut off the cell phone you gave ebay as the contact number
  11. February - there's a couple of people given bad feedback but it doesn't show as significant because you have thousands of good ones.
  12. March - 90 days have passed and all hell breaks loose
  13. Spend your ill gotten gains

I don't buy a lot of stuff on ebay - under 10 items a year - but I've been buying magazine subscriptions on there because they are so damn cheap. Up till this year I got ripped off once. In the last 3 months 2 magazine sellers have pulled the above stunt on myself and thousands of others.

Here's how you find out there is a problem:

  1. 90 days pass - no magazine
  2. Contact the seller through ebay - notice all the recent bad feedback and sigh... No response
  3. Contact the seller through email - no response
  4. Read the feedback that says they do not respond to disputes and their phone is disconnected
  5. Try to open a dispute - ebay won't allow it after 60 days
  6. Try to dispute through paypal - they don't care after 45
  7. Complain to ebay
  8. Get a form letter back from a robot telling you what you already know
  9. Send bitchy email to ebay asking for a human
  10. Get nice email back telling you that they will investigate
  11. Sellers account gets suspended but they don't care because they have already spent the money on booze or drugs or more holiday lights for their trailer.

Ebay of course will offer no advice beyond 'please read our FAQs to help regarding fraud'. Thankfully for the sellers its only a few $$ so not worth my time to file mail fraud charges in their states or whatever it is I am supposed to do. In fact i probably wasn't even worth my time writing this blog other than to let the world know about this easy money making scheme. I only charge 10% of your gross income!

So Gilbert Flores from Arlington, TX and Casey Parkinson from North Attleboro, MA I'd just like to send a big sarcastic thank you and hope you enjoyed your holidays.

 

ZMan makes the DailyWTF

Those of you in the programming world will have heard of the DailyWTF - WTF meaning of course What the F*** - that showcases the worst of the computer programming world. Its not a place that a world respected programmer like myself ever wants to end up.

Which is why I was shocked when i saw a screen shot from Space Blitz - a learning GDI based game I did for MSDN a few years ago. What coding sin had I committed that had made me worthy for inclusion?

Thankfully I soon realised that it was some ad web coding on another developers part that had got the screen shot included. Apparently I had managed to include some contact management software inside the space invaders type game - yes folks I am THAT good a developer!!!!

 

Hills should be illegal!

I know you are all expecting my race reports to get crazier and crazier after my goofy race but the next crazy race is not for 5 more weeks (only the 50k folks - I'm not totally insane [well maybe not till 2009]).

But as part of the training we like to get out and do a race every so often and the Mercer Island half is always a good one to start the season with. There's only one problem with this race - its hilly all the way through. I'm not sure if there are actually any parts of it that are totally flat. Even worse our non scientific survey says that there are 3 miles of steep downhill, compared to 10 miles of gradual or steep uphill. I know the net gain for the race is 0ft but it doesn't feel like that.

Because of my upcoming ultra I am running 4 times a week now and I ran 8 miles in a trail run relay last weekend so I was not feeling very fresh going into this race. The first 2-3 miles were more hard work than I remember for a half marathon and I averaged about a 9:40 pace. Heck I ran the first half of the Seattle marathon faster than this (though that was a stupid thing to have done!). One of my running group buddies was running about the same speed but he was water breaking on his own schedule and I was taking water at the fairly regular water stops so we kept passing each other which was nice. Its really strange that because we run together so much we can recognise footsteps, breathing or even a cough as we came up on each other.

Some of the hills are long and slow and you can't always tell its a gradient so you just wonder why things feel so tough. Miles 3-6 I managed to speed up a little to get under 9:30 pace. Some miles were ok, others were just reminding me of the ache in my legs. Its nothing like the last 10 miles of the goofy and its good practise for the 50k so I suck it up and keep plugging on. I can feel the calf where I had my injury getting tight so I'm glad of an excuse not to push too hard.

Around mile 8 I stop for water and when I restart my calf seizes up for a moment. I do some long paces to stretch it out but I can feel that something isn't quite right. Thankfully after a few hundred yards it loosens up but I take the next mile a little slower just in case. At the next water stop at mile 10 I decide to grab a water but not stop and walk in case my leg freezes up again. I really don't know how the elite athletes do it. I slow down to a very slow jog and still spill most of the water on me. A quick check of the watch tells me that I need a 20 minute 5k to PR at this point. Sometimes its nice to know that the pressure is off. I'm still averaging under 9:30 pace so I continue on at that speed.

There's a couple of nasty hills at mile 11 and up to the finish at mile 13 but thankfully J and the rest of the supporter crew are half way up the last hill for inspiration and I come in for a nice 2:04 and 9:27pace. Not my fastest but a good run on tired legs I think.

So now just 5 training weeks left until my 50k (32 mile) run. After that no crazy plans finalized just yet.

 

Posted 10 March 2008 09:58 AM by zman | 3 comment(s)
Filed under:
Retarded dog owners

Just because your dog responds to 'sit' when you are sitting quietly at home with a treat in your hand does not mean your dog is trained well nor is it 'under voice control'. So when you take your dog to a park please follow the city law and keep her on a leash. Yelling "Sally" in ever increasing volume for 5 minutes while you stand totally still really doesn't work and makes you look stupid. Maybe running after your loose animal would help your over sized American butt too. I'm sure the responsible dog owners with their pets on a leash really appreciated the welcome your dog gave theirs, I'm sure the parents of all the kids on the swings really loved your dog going to visit them - I know your dog is friendly but not everyone likes dogs and lots of little kids are scared of them. But worst of all there is a major road less that 50 yards away from where your dog was aimlessly trotting around ignoring you. Some of us have no desire to see an accident or a dead dog - but I guess I guess your lack of a leash indicates how much you care for your animal - you can always get another one eh? I hope you get a ticket! Of course then you would write a self righteous letter to the local paper whining about your constitutional rights and the Geneva convention being ignored and how the police should have better things to do. I forgot... YOU are more important than everyone else!

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